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RE: Errors and their importance

Jan 24, 1999 02:12 AM
by Peter Merriott

Dear Rich,

Thanks for your posting.  A number of things came to mind for me.

1)  I note your point that the Glossary says the term is Sanskrit whilst the
index to the Collected Writings says it is derived from the Tibetan.  What I
can't tell, as I do not have all the volumes of the collected writings is
whether HPB refers to it as Tibetan in origin in one place and / or Sanskrit
in another.  However, your point is that the Glossary and thereby it's
author(s) is wrong to state this term is Sanskrit.

2) Rich, I obvously don't have your sensitivity to linquistics for what I
cannot get is a sense that this is a "hideous" or "horrendous mistake" as
you call it, or so "ridiculous" that it would prevent the public from taking
theosophy seriously.  Nor do I see this as theosophy "embarrassing itself in
public".  You say that this is a "minor" mistake and I heartily agree with
your use of the word "minor".  The serious student has to look beyond the
level of words to the inner teachings which the words 'point to' rather than
represent.  And of course, you have emphasised this as well.

HPB stresses in the Proem of the SD that the teachings are meant to appeal
to the "inner faculties" of the student.  In fact, with reference to the SD
she  writes  "..this work is written for the instruction of students of
Occultism and not for the benefit of philologists.." (p23).  My own small
experience of scholars in the UK and USA is that they are not put off by
linguistic errors but tend to be critical or supportive of the ideas and
principles behind them.  Unfortunately, there seem to be many more people
who refrain from the study of theosophy, or who abandon it after a short
time, who have no interest at all in linquistic correctness, let alone
whether a word is of Sanskrit or tibetan origin.

3) I am sure you know from reading the Key to Theosophy and the Mahatma
Letters that a lot of confusion ensued in the attempt to find and use terms
consistently that would both carry the ideas and teachings that HPB and her
Teachers *wanted* to communicate while not revealing more than was allowed
of the esoteric doctrine at the time.  HPB tries to clarify some of these
points re the use of english terms for the Higher Self, Higher Ego,
spiritual ego.. etc in "the Key", and I believe, though I haven't been able
to track it down for this post, that KH says a similar thing to Sinnet in ML
about the use of terminology and particularly the term Deva as used
differently at times by Himself, HPB and Subba Row.

4)  While I don't share your view that these are  "hideous mistakes" I
appreciate your strong concern that more people could be led over the
threshold into the study of theosophy if what appear to be translation
errors could be corrected.  This led me to the following...

 ... **IF** you genuinely feel in your heart that you could help the cause
of theosophy by presenting a revised Glossary why don't you work on your own
Glossary of Theosophical terms and seek to get it published.  Then students
and 'scholars' can judge the whole case for themselves - if they are
interested.  Perhaps someone like yourself, a scholar and supporter of HPB
could do a good service at this level, who knows?  We musn't underestimate
the value of scholars, academics becoming students of theosophy as their
work can influence a wide number of people.  So, Rich, I know you have
acknowledged this is "Eye Doctrine" stuff but let your *heart* inform you as
to whether you should take this further or whether your energy and knowledge
would be better used in some other way.

I think the thing to avoid would be putting energy into this mainly to prove
'other' people wrong.

5) Lastly while I was looking for that reference (above) to "Deva" in the
Mahatma Letters I came across the following references below to Deva-chan,
Sukhavati and Deva-Loka by KH.  As I understand it the first letter shows
KH's familiarity with the Tibetan(?) allegorical story, and the second
suggests (in my view) how He wants Sinnet to understand the term.  While KH
links it to the term Deva Loka, which I understand is Sanskrit(?), the real
key is in His first sentence which points out that these lokas are not
really places (the exoteric view) but "states of consciousness".

So it seems to me that whether Deva-chan is Tibetan - meaning "abode of the
pure", or Sanskrit - meaning "dwelling of the Gods", both these definitions
are Exoteric.  However, the main thrust of the Glossary definition is that
it points the interested reader towards the *esoteric* meaning that HPB and
The Masters wished to convey.  This, I believe, is THE central issue.

Comparing the two definitions - I would begin to share your strong feelings
and start using words like "horrendous..hideous!" if Theosophy and
theosphists were presented as believing in the Tibetan definition of
devachan as being a "heaven full of terraces, lotos-lakes, and players of
music, together with swans, cuckoos and peacocks."!!

Best wishes,


Letter 16.

(1) The Deva-Chan, or land of "Sukhavati," is allegorically described by our
Lord Buddha himself. What he said may be found in the Shan-Mun-yi-Tung. Says
Tathagata: --
"Many thousand myriads of systems of worlds beyond this (ours) there is a
region of Bliss called Sukhavati . . . . This region is encircled with seven
rows of railings, seven rows of vast curtains, seven rows of waving trees;
this holy abode of Arahats is governed by the Tathagatas (Dhyan Chohans) and
is possessed by the Bodhisatwas. It hath seven precious lakes, in the midst
of which flow crystaline waters having 'seven and one' properties, or
distinctive qualities (the 7 principles emanating from the ONE). This, O,
Sariputra is the 'Deva Chan.' Its divine Udarnbara flower casts a root in
the shadow of every earth, and blossoms for all those who reach it. Those
born in the blessed region are truly felicitous, there are no more griefs or
sorrows in that cycle for them. . . . Myriads of Spirits (Lha) resort there
for rest and then return to their own regions. (1) Again, O, Sariputra, in
that land of joy many who are born in it are Avaivartyas . . .(2) etc., etc.

Letter No. 69.

"Now to answer your questions.
(1) In esoteric teachings "Brahma," "Pitri," and "Deva" lokas, are states of
consciousness belonging to the various ethereal hierarchies or classes of
Dhyanis and Pitris (the "creators" and "ancestors" of Humanity) and of
Devas -- some far higher than man (spiritually) some -- among the Deva
classes -- far behind on the descending arc of evolution, and only destined
to reach the human stage in a future Manvantara. -- Exoterically these lokas
represent Nirvana, Devachan and the Astral world. The meaning of the terms
Devachan and Deva-loka, is identical; "chan" and "loka" equally signifying
place or abode. "Deva" is a word too indiscriminately used in Eastern
writings, and is at times merely a blind."

["place" and "abode" are emphasised in italics in the letter]

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